Reflecting on the Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture Initiative

  • 2022/03/24     Dresden, Germany

    This report looks back at UNU-FLORES’s journey of supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals since 2015 through the Safe Use of Wastewater in Agriculture (SUWA) initiative.

    By Atiqah Fairuz Salleh and Hiroshan Hettiarachchi

    About two-thirds of the global population live under conditions of severe water scarcity for at least one month in a year (Mekonnen and Hoekstra 2016). This is only going to get worse thanks to climate change. Out of our freshwater consumption, 70–80 per cent goes to the agricultural sector (Lautze et al. 2014). However, we often forget to ask ourselves if we really need drinking quality water for agriculture.

    At the same time, we produce over 330 km3 of wastewater on a global scale each year (Mateo-Sagasta et al. 2015), yet over 80 per cent of it does not receive any treatment and flows back into the natural ecosystem (UN-Water 2014), polluting the limited supply of freshwater we have for human consumption.

    Given these critical issues that we currently face as a global community, it is key to realise that the solutions lie within these challenges. If all types of wastewater are to be treated by all means, then the treated wastewater can be used for agricultural irrigation, which presents a sustainable way to alleviate water scarcity. How did we miss something so simple and so attractive?

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